Winning an unemployment case is a difficult task as it is, even more so when it involves absenteeism or tardiness. Unfortunately, most absentee cases are determined by the final incident. It’s no secret we can’t be present for every final incident to ensure not only the proper steps are taken to follow company policy, but proper documentation is occurring as well. Ultimately, this means front-line managers and supervisors must recognize the importance of this information. Most employers have well-established and comprehensive written attendance policies, and require their employees to sign-off that they have received the handbook or policy.
Despite their best efforts, sometimes even thorough employers fail to make specific distinctions in their policies such as:
• When is a doctor’s note required?
• What is considered excessive absenteeism?
• Who are they to communicate their tardiness or absence to?
• What is an acceptable means of communicating tardiness or an absence (call, text, email)?
• When is an absence considered excused or unexcused?
Problems for employers with absenteeism (and other time related policy issues) generally originate with the manner in which the employer documents day-to-day violations. Employers may have detailed policies spelling out the aforementioned attendance issues – it is the documentation process that often determines a win or loss in the unemployment arena. Management must remember: pure numbers of absences or tardiness may violate your policy and justify a legal discharge but do not guarantee a winning unemployment case, or even a strong unemployment case.
To make your case much stronger, it means more than just logging the dates of absenteeism, tardiness and corrective action. You must document everything for each and every absence or instance of tardiness. Specifically:
• What exact time did they communicate their absence /tardiness?
• Who called in, the employee themselves or a family member, friend, etc.?
• With whom did they speak or when was the message received?
• Did they leave a voice message?
• Did you save the message, email or text?
• What was the exact reason or excuse given?
• Did they provide a doctor’s note?
• What did the manager/supervisor say in response to the call?
• What was the employee’s start and finish time?
• Did the manager/supervisor make any requests of the employee?
Again, the importance is always placed on a final incident. When pressed for a claimant’s excuse for the final incident, a supervisor may say: “It was always something about their car”. Looking at the claimant’s statement to the unemployment office they may say their car wouldn’t start. The claimant will be found eligible and the employer will lose any protest because we can’t dispute their statement. In a different scenario, if the supervisor documents the final excuse on paper as “my car broke down on the way to work” and the claimant tells the unemployment office “my car wouldn’t start”, you have an inconsistent statement casting doubt on the credibility of the claimant which can turn a very weak case into a likely winner.
Employers have won cases based on the variety of dramatic excuses given by a claimant over time for absenteeism (cat had emergency surgery; fire-truck blocked me in on my street; power failure in area; pipe burst in my apartment; a baseball shattered my windshield). Some excuses can be so outlandish and inconsistent that it paves the way for a much easier disqualification. Whether it’s an outrageous story or a seemingly slight nuance in a statement, solid documentation will always be extremely helpful.
More is Less, and That’s Good
What’s the lesson in all this? Contrary to the old “Less is More” adage, employers that record more detail in the documentation process, will likely result in paying less out in UI benefits for absence and time related separations. See what we did there?
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